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Arizona OKs New Auto Emissions Rules

Panel gave Gov. Janet Napolitano's administration the green light to adopt rules implementing California-style automobile emission and fuel-efficiency standards.

PHOENIX (AP) -- An Arizona panel on Tuesday gave Gov. Janet Napolitano's administration the green light to adopt rules implementing California-style automobile emission and fuel-efficiency standards.

The rules are largely intended to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases said to contribute to climate change.

However, the Governor's Regulatory Review Council's 5-2 votes still leaves implementation of much of the Department of Environmental Quality's rules up in the air.

That's because the emission restrictions in the rules can't be enforced until California gets a federal waiver to implement its rules.

California, with support from other states, is embroiled in a legal battle over the federal Environmental Protection Agency's denial of a waiver. Arizona is joining 12 other states in adopting California's rules, and several others plan to do so,

A senior Arizona Department of Environmental Quality official said he couldn't guarantee that implementation of the rules would lower temperatures. However, Arizona would be joining other states contributing to reductions of greenhouses gases, said Deputy Director Patrick Cunningham said.

''We are indeed acting globally,'' Cunningham said.

In a point disputed by DEQ, automobile manufacturers argued that the agency lacks authority under state law to issue rules on autos' greenhouse gas emissions.

Napolitano's administration needed to have the Legislature change state law to treat greenhouse gases as contaminants subject to auto-emission regulations, said attorney Knox Kimberly, a lobbyist for auto manufacturers.

''This has not been done in a proper manner,'' Kimberly said. ''Today is not the time or the place for that policy debate.''

The review council decides whether state agencies have legal authority to issue proposed rules and whether the agencies have solicited public input and conducted an adequate cost-benefit analysis.

''We don't get to decide the merits of the rule today,'' said council member Stan Barnes, a lobbyist and former legislator.

Barnes and another lobbyist serving on the council cast the two ''no'' votes. Both were appointed to the council by Napolitano after being chosen from lists of nominees submitted by Republican legislative leaders. Four other Napolitano appointees and an administration official who serves on the council voted for the rule changes.

The council's action comes amid complaints by some legislators that Napolitano is treading on their policymaking turf.

A bill to block the administration from adopting greenhouse-gas emission rules for autos awaits a House vote after drawing bipartisan support in the Senate. The bill is a likely target for a veto by the Democratic governor if it emerges from the Republican-led Legislature.

Health groups, conservationists and other activists endorsed the proposed rules.

The council's approval of the rules ''steers Arizona in the right direction toward cleaning the air, improving public health and saving consumers money at the gas pump,'' said Diane Brown, executive director of Ariona PIRG, an advocacy group.

Alan Chan, a Ford dealer from Flagstaff, opposed the rules, saying they would narrow vehicle buyers' choices and impose new costs.

State and industry officials disagree on economic costs and benefits to consumers, with the state projecting roughly a $1,000 hike in new vehicle prices once the requirements are fully implemented and the industry putting the additional cost at $6,000.

They also disagree on potential savings on gasoline and other expenses.

If allowed to be enforced, the emission standards would be enforced starting with sales of 2012 models.

The DEQ originally proposed the rules start with the 2011 model year but Cunningham said the change to 2012 was made to give manufacturers two full years ''to get those cars to Arizona.''

Four of the council's seven members declared potential conflicts of interest because their employers or law firms supported or opposed the rule proposal. However, the chairman invoked a rule that allowed the four to participate to avoid depriving the council of a quorum.

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